When starting a digital project, generally one of the first things that the team needs to schedule and accomplish is the Kickoff Meeting. The kickoff meeting is a meeting in which members of the digital project team and the client-side project stakeholders are introduced, the project’s requirements are set, the client’s business model is dissected and project roles are established. Additionally, the kickoff meeting should go about establishing expectations between the two teams in regards to time needed for feedback and timelines due to resource availability.
Obviously that is a number of things to accomplish in a single meeting which is why when approaching a kickoff it helps to break it down into three different phases, the pre-kickoff research, the meeting itself and the post-kickoff recap.
The Pre-Kickoff Research
Once the project has been confirmed that it is happening (its been sold and the contract is signed) the pre-kickoff phase of the project begins. Generally this starts with the account team (sales and project management) meeting internally with the production team that will be responsible for the design and development of the project. In this meeting the UX (production) team is given the project responsibilities, requirements and contract.
Focusing on allowing the team to understand more about the stakeholder’s business, its competition, its customers and how this digital product will fit into all of that
From there the production team develops a series of questions to be relayed to the client to be filled out and returned at least 48 hours before the kickoff meeting. Questions for this questionnaire can vary depending on initial project requirements, but generally focus on allowing the team to understand more about the stakeholder’s business, its competition, its customers and how this digital product will fit into all of that. Once this questionnaire has been returned, the UX team analyzes the answers in order to better empathize with the project stakeholders and also finds answers that may warrant additional exploration during the kickoff meeting.
The Kickoff Meeting
The kickoff meeting, as mentioned in the introduction, is the meeting in which the digital project team and client-side stakeholders are introduced and the initial project requirements are established. During the kickoff meeting it is important for the project team to set any client hesitations at ease, and this is accomplished by presenting a strong, unified and confident front. This is done simply through preparation which is why the initial pre-kickoff research phase is crucial to a successful kickoff.
It is important to note that while the purpose of the kickoff meeting is gathering information, it should be presented as a conversation and not an interrogation. This helps set people at ease and provide more thoughtful answers to the questions. Once any business questions have been covered, the project team is responsible for setting the client’s expectations for the project moving forward. This means setting project roles, establishing initial timelines and providing methods of team communication to ensure people on the project are kept in the loop.
The Post-Kickoff Recap
Finally, after the kickoff meeting has happened and the teams are back at their respective offices, ready to get started on the project that was so enthusiastically kicked-off, it is important for the project team to send a post-kickoff recap. This recap can take the form of a message or project outline document that goes over what was established in the kickoff meeting. This is to ensure that both teams (the project team and the client stakeholders) are definitely on the same page and no wires were crossed.
Scope creep are elements of the project that are considered out-of-scope. These items can destroy timelines and blow-up budgets, so it is important to recognize their warning signs to better prepare for and avoid them.
Additionally, the project team can take internal notes as to what was mentioned in the kickoff meeting to pinpoint any potential scope-creep items. Scope creep are elements of the project that are considered out-of-scope, IE something that the client wants that wasn’t necessarily allotted time within the budget. Working on out-of-scope items can cause the project run out of hours before the digital products most important elements are completed and as such, should be avoided.
Every digital project starts with a foundation established during the initial kickoff of a project. Understanding these three phases of a kickoff will allow project teams to start more projects on a strong foundation and setup more projects for success.